When one thinks of Mercedes-AMG, cars like the mighty GT Coupe and G63 SUV come to mind; but at the bottom of the ladder sits the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35, a capable and exciting compact four-door sedan that lives up to the AMG name, even if it doesn't make a million horsepower. Under the hood, this junior exec packs 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and sends its power to all four wheels. We were left thoroughly impressed by how far the baby AMG CLA has come compared to its previous iteration, and though it might not be as quick as the Audi S3 or as practical as the BMW M235i Gran Coupe, it is still a stylish and fun-to-drive option. With a 0-60 time of under five seconds, ravishing looks, and the most striking cabin in the segment, the CLA 35 isn't a bad way to begin your Mercedes-AMG journey.
Mercedes-AMG has left the CLA primarily unchanged for the 2022 model year but has added a few small features that make the car easier to live with. A USB-C accessory cable is now standard, and the Premium Package now features SiriusXM satellite radio. Rose Gold joins the exterior paint range. Finally, a new AMG Night Package Plus comes with black exterior badging and black louvres on the AMG grille.
The Mercedes-AMG CLA 35's price begins at an MSRP of $47,900 in the US, making it the most affordable model in AMG's range. This price excludes the destination fee of $1,050. The CLA 35's competitors are all closely priced, with the Audi S3 coming in at $45,800 and the BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe at $45,500. Mercedes-AMG offers many options for the CLA 35, and fully loaded, this baby bruiser can easily cost over $70k.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG CLA 35 4MATIC||
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
We have praised Mercedes-AMG's efforts on the latest CLA 35 in a previous test drive review and the 2022 model carries over those impressions. The baby AMG has progressed in leaps and bounds in terms of handling performance and dynamic ability compared to its predecessor, which felt numb and unresponsive. The 2022 CLA 35 offers a naturally stiff ride, but this can be compensated for by equipping the optional AMG Ride Control sport suspension, which considerably softens things without compromising performance. We don't recommend driving the CLA 35 in Sport or Sport Plus mode on city streets, as you'll need to see a chiropractor after a few minutes of driving. Those who buy the CLA won't expect Lexus LS levels of comfort.
Throwing this car around corners reveals numb steering feel but sharp responses: it's easy to tell where the front wheels are going, even if you don't feel every bump or twitch of the steering wheel. We also appreciate that you can feel the car's mechanical grip come into play, which allows the driver to play with the CLA35's natural balance, but doesn't expect any oversteering hoonery; this is still an AWD car that has a natural tendency to understeer. If tail wagging is your thing, then we recommend going for the more powerful CLA 45, which features rear-wheel torque vectoring.
Many hardcore AMG fans still see cars like the CLA 35 as juniors not worthy of the badge, but the 2022 car should be able to change the minds of even the most stringent AMG V8 loyalists. This car has come miles since its last iteration, not only in terms of how it looks but how it handles and entertains through a set of corners. Yes, it still has its faults; it's cramped in the back, its suspension setup can feel stiff to some, and it still likes to understeer, but the overall experience is refreshing and, most importantly, involving. The interior is stuffed with tech and feels modern without giving up its soul. We appreciate the standard features list, its usable trunk, and intuitive infotainment system, and new buyers are given the option to spec this baby AMG extensively. The CLA 35 has drifted somewhere close to the top in a class filled with stiff competition.
The CLA 35 is a standalone trim, so we would suggest looking at AMG's extensive list of optional extras to craft your own unique experience. If we were buying, we'd get one in Iridium Silver metallic and add the AMG Aerodynamics Package (which includes the AMG Night Package) and a set of 19-inch AMG twin five-spoke wheels. On the inside, we'd add the Driver Assistance Package, which automatically adds the Multimedia Package. Finally, we'd go for the $990 AMG Ride Control system, bringing the total cost to $56,590 including destination.
These CLA cars might share the same name, but adding the number 45 instead of 35 makes one hell of a difference. The CLA 45 looks more aggressive thanks to bolder styling features and a unique front grille, but the most significant changes occur under the skin. The CLA 45 is also powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder but now produces 382 hp and 354 lb-ft. Combine that with an advanced eight-speed DCT with launch control, and you get a car that can do the 0-60 mph sprint in just four seconds dead. The CLA 45 also features a rear torque vectoring differential with a tail-happy drift mode. This is the AMG CLA to get if you're looking for a wild time, but you'll need to cough up $55,900 for the privilege.
The Audi S3 and Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 are close competitors in every aspect. Starting at $45,800, the Audi S3 is around $2,000 less expensive than the AMG but offers similar performance and comfort. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the S3 delivers 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels via Audi's Quattro AWD system and a seven-speed automatic transmission. The S3 can sprint to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and hit a limited top speed of 155 mph. Not only is it quicker, but it also uses less fuel: it offers a combined figure of 27 mpg and has a larger fuel tank at 14.5 gallons. The S3 has more rear-seat legroom but a smaller trunk and comes with ample standard tech. If you're after a more performance-focused experience, the Audi is the way to go.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLA 35: